How do you think it would be received if the first time you met someone you planted a kiss right on their mouth and began to assume that you were in a dating relationship? Likely not very well. Why then do we treat business relationships any different?
A Story about Courting and Business Relationships
About a year ago I was at an insurance defense conference where I and other lawyers went to dinner with some potential new clients. We had a nice meal. We talked about the business in various states where the potential clients had work. The lawyers talked about their firms and the kind of work they did. That was the purpose of this meeting – to get to know each other, see if we liked each other, and if down the road we could do business together.
But one of the lawyers got a little handsy at the end of the meal (figuratively speaking). He began to push the potential new client to make a commitment to use his firm as their panel counsel in his state. He wasn’t just forward; he was quite persistent.
For the lawyers, it was uncomfortable watching this unravel. It was also quite evident that the potential new client found it very off-putting and was no longer a potential new client. The formerly potential client was trying to disengage and wrap up dinner. The date had gone wrong. It wasn’t a good match. And the only person who didn’t know it was the overly aggressive lawyer.
The lawyer hadn’t built up any trust equity with the potential new client. He hadn’t done anything to establish that he was capable of doing the work the potential client required. Yet he was asking for a commitment.
It was entirely inappropriate. Entirely ineffective. And entirely too common among lawyers courting new business. Many lawyers approach potential clients this way. I myself have done it. But it is no way to operate and no way to establish good relationships with people with whom you want to do business. Just like in dating, you have to lay the foundations for your business relationships before you can ask for a commitment.
Photo by Maessive.